Personal safety wearables are needed now more than ever. According to a November report by the World Health Organization, one in three women have experienced sexual or physical violence. What if pepper spray, calling 911 or screaming for help doesn't cut it? That's where personal safety wearables not only step in, but have to step up.
While safety wearables are nothing new, they are still on the rise. If it's a watch, pendant or ring, chances are you'll also have it on you most of the time, meaning potentially dangerous situations could be avoided or alleviated with the quick press of a button.
Stylish and discreet safety jewellery, watches, necklaces and rings prove it's a growing market, but what makes each wearable different? Here are some of the best safety wearables, from shorts to bracelets and lockets.
Ripple proves to be different than most wearables because it has a team of responders across the country. This wearable is a square with a handle and looks like a miniature lock, and was first inspired by the co-founder's mother, a real estate agent who shows homes to strangers, who would ask her son to call her and check up on her (if she didn't pick up the phone, it meant she was in trouble).
One click of the button and a member of the response team will call you, if you just want to speak to someone while walking through a dodgy part of town. But if you need help, hit it three times and an emergency team will find you by contacting local responders and police. "It's faster than fumbling for your phone, calling 9-1-1, naming yourself and telling your location," said Rees Bowen Gillespie, the co-founder and COO. "It provides comfort and peace of mind knowing that someone always has your back."
Most safety wearables are jewellery, but not all. Safe Shorts, which come out of Germany, are a pair of spandex shorts equipped with a cord that sets off an alarm when someone tries to remove the garment by force. The company was founded by Sandra Seilz, a marathon runner based in Oberhausen who designed the shorts for long-distance athletes, as well as regular exercisers.
"Recently, I haven't felt safe during my exercises in the forest or on my local running track," she told us. "More often, I have been thinking about being able to protect myself against sexual assault and rape. It is too simple for other people to strip off my sports clothes from my body. Am I able to scream in this situation? Sure, but I could wear other means of security." The shorts have a flexible cord securely attached all around the crotch and a loud alarm is activated automatically if someone tears at your clothes. Seilz considers the wearable "a new bodyguard."
From €89, safeshorts.eu
Similar to the SmartShorts, this Geko whistle sends out an emergency sound when you're in danger. Self-described as "the world's first smart whistle," it is powered by GPS tracking and Bluetooth technology to alert loved ones instantly in times of need. While it isn't as discreet as some of the other wearables, you blow the mouthpiece (or alternatively, press the button for two seconds). It texts, emails and calls (for Android users) with a map of your location, which follows you minute-by-minute until the alert is decativated by the wearer.
If caught in a tough situation where you cannot use your phone, the Wearsafe Tag is a Bluetooth device on a keychain that alerts trusted ones with your location via text message or WhatsApp. All you have to do is tap the discreet device (which looks like a garage door remote), which vibrates to notify you that an alert has been sent. It also sends a vibration every time someone in your network views your alert, to let you know help is on the way. Another thing that sets this one apart is that it's waterproof.
"In a bad situation, making a phone call is harder than you think," said Wearsafe's co-founder David Benoit. "It's an instant call for help that makes it simple to reach the people you trust. You can live life knowing that if you're ever in trouble, the people you trust will get the information they need to help you; where you are, what is happening, and the ability to quickly coordinate a response. We want to make looking out for each a lot easier."
Boston-based company InvisaWear creates smart jewellery that can be worn around the neck and is embedded with a double-click function that sends an SOS message to loved ones and police while sharing your GPS location. The gold or silver-plated charms have a cell battery (good for a year) and circuit board that is activated with pressure detection. It saves five emergency contacts and connects with your smartphone via Bluetooth. They were created because the founder felt that carrying pepper spray around on campus wasn't enough.
"Women shouldn't have to feel nervous when they're walking alone or have to constantly worry that they'll be attacked, but sadly personal safety is a constant struggle that many women have to deal with on a daily basis," said InvisaWear founder Rajia Abdelaziz. "In a world that sometimes feels more dangerous than ever, it's important for women, and all people, to not only feel safe, but to know that help can easily be reached if they need it."
This wearable is more than just a locket, it's an armband with LED lights, sirens, four wearable cameras and a microphone. The Occly has several alarm modes and the ability to capture footage during the emergency, which is saved to the cloud while sirens and LED strobe lights draw attention to bring quick help. While it can be used for people traveling in unsafe areas, it's also meant for security guards and construction workers who work independently.
From $249, occlysecurity.com
Safer is a smart necklace from company Leaf Wearables. The jewellery connects to the wearer's phone over Bluetooth and sends SOS alerts with your whereabouts to friends and family if tapped twice. There's a 90dB buzzer to act as an alarm and it recharges in 15 minutes via Micro USB. You can also share your location on a map in real time while travelling, and preset specific contacts from the companion app. Safer even lasts up to seven days between charges.
The Nimb wearable is a smart ring that tracks your location and can send an alert to friends, families and emergency services if the user feels threatened. Once activated, the ring uses your smartphone to send a distress signal to preset contacts. It can even alert Nimb community users if they are within 300 yards and have the companion app.
From $249, nimb.com
The Athena pendant is reminiscent of a Misfit Shine, but with very different functionality. Activated by holding the button for three seconds, Athena sounds an 85db alarm – the same decibel level as a freight train – and sends a message to pre-determined friends and family automatically. Your chosen contacts will get a map showing your location, directions and a prompt to call you or the emergency services.
The unit itself is water-resistant and boasts a three month battery life. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth in order to generate the GPS location and summon help via the app. The pendant can be worn as a necklace or clipped to any item of clothing.
This one's not yet on sale, but we're including it because we think the idea could be good for the hearing impaired, who need a different kind of help. This wearable bracelet is for people who have removed their hearing aid at night before bed, but don't want to leave themselves exposed to danger; most hearing-impaired people will have to put their aid back on to hear a home burglary.
The device detects sounds of danger from a database of sounds, levels and patterns, and it will vibrate to give you a warning.
Another one that's aimed at the older generation, the Kanega Watch wants to be the stylish version of a safety button. No smartphone connectivity is required, and the watch uses a speech based interface rather than buttons. If a fall is detected the user can say out loud that help is needed – it has speech recognition – or tap the face for assistance.
The Kanega watch has been beta tested by a group of users since its Kickstarter campaign, and is set for general availability in early 2018.